Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 Ondrej Nepela Trophy + 2017 Autumn Classic International + 2017 JGP Minsk-Arena Cup: Review

Tons of skating this week! Three events to take a look at.  Let's dive on in...

2017 Ondrej Nepela Trophy

Another season, another win

Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS): 226.72 - 1st
Evgenia had a very strong opening to her season, as expected.  I really do like her SP this year minus all of the additions (heartbeats and breathing).  If you take all of that out the rest is lovely.  The music is different from what she usually picks and it's refreshing to see her doing something new.  Was it worth 80 points?  Not at all...but it was a very nice.  I can't say the same about the FS though...and it's not even because of the backloading.  Look, at this point I'm going to treat backloading like I treated over-the-boot tights: it's what's trendy in skating right now and, no matter how much I hate it and how unattractive it is, I will just have to get used to it and hope it goes away eventually.  In addition to the fact this program is just like every other one of Evgenia's FSs she's ever done in terms of style and tone, this one is way too busy.  There's no moment for her to breathe in the program.  It's those moments that allow the audience to really connect with her.  I don't like this program and I'm almost hoping she switches back to a previously used one.  Evgenia's jumps were good here except for the lutz which she stumbled out of and received an edge call on.  She also lost a level on her step sequence which cost her a bit.  Either way it was a strong performance that left her with room to grow for the rest of the season.

Rika Hongo (JPN): 189.98 - 2nd
It's a bit shocking to see Rika second in this event considering the season she had last year.  I'm glad she kept her "O Forutuna" SP.  It's a really strong program for her and I love the way she performs it with so much passion.  Again, I feel like given her habit of under-rotating her combo it would make more sense to switch back to the 3T-3T in the bonus.  Still, it was a great performance.  I like her FS.  I think it suits her very well and she had a decent performance here.  There were a couple of issues (a fall and downgrade and a few under-rotations) but this was a strong opener for Rika.  Japan only has two spots for the Olympics so her chances of making it on the team are virtually zero; however, it's great to see her come out and have a good competition and snag a medal to boot.

Elena Radionova (RUS): 182.21 - 3rd
I love Elena's new SP dress.  It's very sleek and simple but she looks amazing in it!  I like her FS dress as well; she always looks so beautiful in red.  Unfortunately her skating wasn't nearly as good as her style choices at this competition.  Elena had under-rotation issues in the SP and an edge call and freak fall in the FS (she was setting up for a loop and her feet just went out from under her).  She also lost points on her non-jump elements in the FS which hurt her score.  Overall this wasn't a great outing for Elena.  Considering she's fighting for a spot on the Olympic team against a number of formidable skaters, this was not the kind of early competition she wanted to have. That said, I think she has a good pair of programs this season; she just needs to back them up with some strong skating. Hopefully she'll do better at her next event.

As for the rest...

Dabin Choi (KOR; 178.93, 4th):  Dabin had a solid competition but she really needs to pick up the pace if she wants to be a contender.  She scaled back on the difficulty here (no 3-3 attempts) and also dropped points on her non-jump elements.  I feel like Dabin could move up in the ranks but there's something very bland about her skating to the point that even when she's skating well, I'm just bored with her.  She has lovely elements but she doesn't draw me in.  If she can work on her projection and performance she'd have a real shot at moving up.

Other Competition Notes:  Alena Leonova (RUS; 170.68, 5th) had a solid overall competition placing 5th in both segments.  Caroline Zhang (USA; 167.95, 6th) had a decent competition.  She didn't get to do the 3L-3L combo in the SP (fell on the first jump) but the FS was stronger.  Her combo was under-rotated as was her lutz but the rest of the program was good for her.

Moving on...

2017 Autumn Classic International

Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN): 217.55 - 1st
It's impressive to see Kaetlyn get off to such a strong start so early.  This was an awesome outing for her considering how she usually starts off the season.  I'm glad she decided to keep last season's SP.  It's a brilliant program that shows off a lot of Kaetlyn's good qualities.  She was a bit shaky here but she got through the performance without any major errors.  I really like her "Black Swan" FS.  The program needs a bit of work (like everyone's does) but I think this will be a great vehicle for her once she settles into it.  Her performance was strong except for the belly flop in the middle.  She lost her footing on a simple move and just ate it.  It was a hard and jarring fall but, rather than fall apart the way she usually does, Kaetlyn refocused and finished out the rest of the program well with her only error being a singled axel at the end.  I'm very impressed with the way she pulled herself together.  That fall could have been disastrous but she didn't let it derail her.  Kaetlyn scored a personal best and easily won here.  Yet another podium contender looking good to start the season...

Mai Mihara (JPN): 199.02 - 2nd
I appreciate the fact that Mai is trying to move her skating in a more mature direction.  I like the packaging of her SP (music, choreo, dress), I just don't find her delivery of it convincing.  To me, Mai is a lovely skater from top to bottom: great edges, great jumps, great spins.  The one place she's lacking for me is in performance.  Skating to "Libertango" requires fire and intensity; I see that she's going for that but it's just not there yet.  I feel similarly regarding the FS.  The packaging is good (though I'm not too sure how I feel about the music) but it's the same issue: her delivery.  Her movements are small; Mai needs to really reach and add that emphasis to the movements to make them land the way they are intended to.  It's there but she needs someone to pull it out of her more.  Call Akiko Suzuki!  Performance issues aside, this was a great start for Mai.  All of Japan's front-runners for those two spots are having great starts so far.

Elizabet Turzynbaeva (KAZ): 181.00 - 3rd
It's raining Carmens! Must be an Olympic season.  Yet another program set to "Carmen" (is that 3 now?) but I will say I like this one.  First off, bravo to whoever styled Elizabet for this program.  The cut of the dress gives her a more mature look on the ice which has been an issue for me in seasons past.  I like the choreography as well and she does a good job of bringing that playful fire to her performance. I don't care for her styling in the FS (she's back to looking like a junior) but I love the music and the choreography. Elizabet's time with Eteri Tutberidze has her abusing the rippon feature.  Judging by the lack of GOE on her jumps the judges didn't particularly care for it.  The feature looks good on her triple toe because she's straight in the air; however, she should scrap it on her flips and lutzes due to the fact she bends her legs in the air.  The bent arms and bent ain't pretty.  Still, this was a solid start to Elizabet's season.

As for the rest...

Courtney Hicks (USA; 174.16, 4th):  Courtney started off okay in the SP.  I admire the fact that she's going for the 3F-3L but it wasn't working for her at this event.  Hopefully it will later in the season because if it does that will definitely help to move her up.  I like her SP a lot this season and she performed it well, especially the step sequence.  I don't like her FS music at all.  It doesn't suit her and it doesn't have that Olympic feel. I actually think she'd do better to go back to her "Hunchback of Notre Dame" FS from last year.  Lots of errors (two falls, two popped jumps) lost her points and she fell from 3rd to 4th.

Other Competition Notes:  Alaine Chartrand (CAN; 162.42, 5th) is having a rough time.  With Canada having three spots to the Olympics that 3rd spot is hers...for now.  She'd better hope one of the lesser known girls doesn't have a breakout performance at nationals...Rin Nitaya (JPN; 161.20, 6th) had a really tough start in the SP placing 9th but had a stronger FS performance to pull up...Mae Berenice Meite (FRA; 141.41, 8th) is still struggling a lot.  She used to be a top 6 skater at these events.  What happened?

And finally...

2017 JGP Minsk-Arena Cup

Alexandra Trusova (RUS): 196.32 - 1st
There's something very appealing about Alexandra.  Her SP was wonderfully entertaining and even though she took an extremely hard fall on an attempted 4S at the beginning of her FS, she was able to refocus and knock the rest of the program out of the water.  Alexandra is such a tiny little thing but she skates with a lot of power.  She rotates lightning quick and she also gets decent height on her jumps which isn't always the case with fast rotaters.  A lot of the time skaters rotate quickly to compensate for a lack of height; Alexandra has both...for now.  Only time will tell if she'll be able to rotate like that once puberty has its say.  For now, she's fabulous.  Alexandra easily won this one and has earned herself a spot at the Final.

Nana Araki (JPN): 183.00 - 2nd
This was Nana's debut on the JGP and she made quite an impression.  I really love watching her jump.  She gets great spring into the air, tight rotation and I love the way she holds her landing position for a beat.  Too many girls are concerned with tacking as many exiting transitions as possible onto a landing. They don't realize that a sustained landing is great because not only does it look good, it shows the judges that the skater is completely in control of the landing.  Nana also has lovely spins (especially her layback) and I can tell she could end up being a strong performer.  Nana placed 2nd in the SP and 3rd in the FS to finish 2nd overall and earn her first JGP medal.  Nicely done!

Stanislava Konstantinova (RUS): 181.98 - 3rd
Stanislava looks as though she's grown about a foot since the last time I saw her.  Well that's an over exaggeration but she has sprouted up quite a bit.  The good thing about that is she stands out next to the other much smaller less commanding-looking skaters.  Stanislava struggled in the SP falling and receiving a downgrade on her 3F-3T(<<).  She went into the FS about 3 points out of 2nd and had a much better skate.  Stanislava received the highest PCS in both segments of the competition which is a plus for her.  She placed 2nd in the FS but missed 2nd overall by only 1.02 points.

As for the rest...

Ye Lim Kim (KOR; 163.49, 5th):  Ye Lim had a decent competition here.  She has the skill set to excel in this "new age" of backloading, tanos and difficulty but she'll need more.  The performance level isn't quite there yet and neither is the consistency.  Ye Lim also needs to work on non-jump elements, especially her step sequence which only received a level 2 in both programs.  I could see her being a factor a few years down the road...

Other Competition Notes:  Riko Takino (JPN; 162.86, 5th) wasn't able to improve upon her first outing at JGP Brisbane where she placed 3rd.  This 5th place finish kills her chances of making the Final...Tessa Hong (USA; 149.14, 6th) is a lovely skater but her decision to fully backload her FS isn't a great one.   She had a myriad of problems in the FS here and finished a very distant 5th.

This week is JGP Croatia Cup which will take place in Zagreb, Croatia.  We'll see Anastasia Tarakanova (RUS), Mako Yamashita (JPN) and Akari Matsuoka (JPN) in their second event.  There will be another Challenger Series event this week (Nebelhorn Trophy); however, there are no major names competing at the event.  Still, I give it a very quicky recap next week.  Laters!

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